by Jim Brann | Running for Gateway Services Community Development District Supervisor, Seat 4

Storm Lake Systems From a Layman’s Perspective

Water is a resource basic to our everyday needs; health, recreation, pleasure and more. It can also cause major disasters such as dam breaks, torrential rain, algae-infested water and more. In Southwest Florida, water impacts life in every conceivable way.

Why do we have storm lake systems in Southwest Florida? The network of storm lakes and wetlands is to control peak storm runoff from developed properties before it floods your home. The plans are based on the South Florida Water Management District’s 100, 25 and five-year design requirements and standards.

First, and most importantly, our storm lakes are part of a system which must be appropriately monitored, maintained and repaired in order to work properly. Debris must be removed from street drains, pipes must be cleaned periodically, weirs (gates) and catch basins must be debris-free and all must be constructed at the proper levels and diameters (pipes) using appropriate materials. Water flow must be monitored.


Yard, home (gutters) and street drainage.

Drainage from homes and yards can go into the street via French drains using 4” PVC or corrugated plumbers’ pipe; or

Into the backyard via a French ditch like the street drain using a bubbler so the water “bubbles up” onto the yard and then is dispersed with some water going into the yard and in some into streets via street drains.

Street drains are dependent on the proper slope of the street, so the water will drain towards the gutter and then to appropriately placed street drains. The street drain is connected to an appropriately sized pipe (typically 18-24” in diameter) which goes into a storm lake.

Catch basins are the main component in a landscape drainage system.

They are boxes available in various sizes and materials that are placed in the ground to facilitate proper water drainage and avoid property damage.

The top of the box features a grate through which excess water and solids drain into the underground box.

The solid particles then settle at the bottom of the box while the water collects until it reaches the outlet trap.

The outlet trap is connected to an underground piping system that leads the water to a storm lake.

Pipes (typically corrugated plastic, PVC or concrete) are used to convey the water from place to place typically 4” in diameter for yard to street in French ditches and then 18” up to 60” in diameter for flowing water from lake to lake and then to egress from the system to a main flow-way (canal).

Weirs (gates) are used to change the flow by constricting the water and allow for the measurement of water flow. Think of them as a vertical gate. In Southwest Florida, they are typically designed based on elevation with downstream weirs being at a lower elevation to facilitate the direction and flow of water.

Canals are usually used to handle water leaving a stormwater system. For example, water leaving Gateway flows via canal out of Pelican Preserve under Treeline Avenue and then to two canals under Interstate 75, then to the Six Mile Cypress Slough, to the ten-mile Canal then finally to Estero Bay in the Gulf of Mexico.


Planning for water in Southwest Florida is complex and includes the Gateway Services Community Development District, Department of Natural Resources and Community Development Division, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

Florida Statutes require that all counties develop a five-year Capital Improvement Program. It represents a five-year plan designed to meet the capital improvement needs of the county.

Storm lakes and everything associated with them requires development orders and permits.

Typically, a developer designs the system along with all other aspects of a development and then works with Lee County, South Florida Water Management District, and Gateway Services Community Development District to obtain appropriate development orders and permits. Once plans become development orders and are permitted it is costly and timely to obtain changes.


Current Lee County and Gateway 100-year storm event plans include the flooding of streets and yards. This strategy has not been updated in over 30 years even though five-year plans are created as required.

Gateway Services along with their Engineering consultant, Tetra Tech, met with the South Florida Water Management District to discuss monitoring and adjustable weirs.

These systems if upgraded with appropriate management tools (monitoring equipment and adjustable weirs) and properly maintained will protect us now and for generations to come.


Water is key to our lives, it can be a double-edged sword! We must conserve it, keep it clean, maintain systems designed to protect us and use available tools and technology to minimize the impact of stormwater.